GMA WANTS WOODEN-HULLED SHIPS PHASED OUTManila, June 3, 2003 -- President Arroyo expressed yesterday her desire to phase out wooden-hulled ships to transport people across the country, to put an end to the tragedies that usually involved these "floating coffins." She ordered Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza to review and study this shift in policy to prevent a recurrence of the May 25 sea tragedy involving the wooden-hulled M/V San Nicolas, which sank after it collided with a much bigger SuperFerry 12 in Manila Bay. "The M/V San Nicolas was a wooden-hulled ship ferrying passengers from Palawan to Manila during stormy weather," the President said. She instructed Mendoza "to prepare a policy recommendation governing the continued use of wooden-hulled vessels as passenger ships, including rules and regulations on classification implementation for passenger ships, particularly wooden-hulled ships." The possible phase-out of wooden-hulled passenger ships was one of the six-point policy reforms in maritime safety that the President spelled out yesterday in a pre-departure speech at Malacaņang before she took a chartered flight for her state visit to South Korea and a working visit to Japan. "I will not allow the inexorable march of events to leave the issue of maritime safety behind. I am determined to make my administration the point to end the long chain of deadly sea accidents that has marked inter-island shipping in our country," she said. The President reiterated her previous instructions to concerned government officials, led by Mendoza, to conduct a thorough investigation into the recent ferryboat collision and get to the bottom of this accident within 15 days. "I expect to receive the findings and recommendations on June 9, upon my return from South Korea and Japan," she said. Mrs. Arroyo noted that inter-island travel by ship is a mode of transport favored and affordable to poor Filipinos. "Maritime safety is therefore an issue important to the welfare of our poorer citizens," she said. The President, as part of her six-point policy reforms on maritime safety, asked Mendoza to organize a performance assessment of the Philippine Coast Guard, in relation maritime safety standards, overloading rules, and rescue operations.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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